Friday, November 30, 2012

Old Doesn't Equal Bad or Irrelevant

The above tweet from @JohnTSpencer during #edchat got me thinking, how many times do we throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water, simply because it is old?

Maybe it is because I am now an age that I once thought was old (over was right, time DOES fly when you are having fun!) ! I'm even a Grammy (see below)! So that makes me REALLY old!

 On more than one occasion during study tours at Zebra New Tech, our local high school, visitors would ask the students something to the tune of

"What qualities do the BEST teachers have" 

Student answers were always something like...

Sense of Humor
Not Boring
Like kids (This one always got me...apparently they have had teachers that they think don't! UGH)
Tough-but still nice
and...wait for it.........

Hmmm....I'm now 45 aka pushing I .....young? old?

Almost every time the kids said this, in the room was someone I admire greatly, he taught our boys, coached my husband in middle school, and as a colleague, I learn something from Dan McCarthy every single time we talk.  But he is....GASP....even older that I am! (sorry, Dan, but are OLD)

He is an also the early adopter of every new piece of technology that comes out, quickly figuring out how it can facilitate student learning, he does about a million 1:1 sessions with his fellow teachers trouble shooting or introducing technology, and once read Twilight over Christmas break just to keep up with what his students were reading! 

I, for one, think age is irrelevant, I've worked with teachers with 25+ years experience in the classroom who are inspirational life-long learners.  Who are always searching, digging, mining for ways to reach, engage,  inspire and connect with their students. (even if it means reading vampire books)

The first Montessori school opened in 1907, I would happily send that adorable baby girl in the above photo to a Montessori school!

The Reggio Emilio Approach is a bit younger, not appearing until after WWII but, would I send that sweet baby girl  to a school embracing this? YES!

Project Based Learning has its roots in Aristotle, Confucius, Dewey, and Piaget all pretty old dudes!

 Legos, building blocks, tinker toys, story telling, dolls, trucks, bubbles, playdough, and books...all kinda "old" or are they... classic? vintage? time-honored?

Perhaps we could all critically think, analyze, synthesize, know do what we want our kids to do and stop equating new with good and old with bad!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Didn't Get Stars, Points, Pizzas or Parties for Reading!

I'm a reader.
I've always been a reader.
No one paid me to read.
No one bribed me to read.
I didn't get stars, points, pizzas or parties for reading.

How did I possibly learn to read ?
My dad read books. (But he didn't read directions, ever, for anything )
My dad also was a story teller,he told us made up stories, true stories, and was  a poetry reader, James Whitcomb Riley (poet laureate of Indiana ) was read often in our house... Little Orphant Annie, The Bear Story, Raggedy Man, I still recite these by heart.
My mom had us read recipes, write grocery lists, we always had pencils, crayons and paper.
I don't even remember not having a library card, perhaps it was issued with my birth certificate.
Words, spoken, written & read were important in our house.

My 1st grade teacher, (who was also my 2nd grade teacher...looping before looping was cool) read aloud to us everyday, more than once a day.

She didn't control what we checked out from the library,

Like cars? Get a car book.
Like biographies? Get one.
Heck get 7, get one of each.
Want to read the atlas? Do it.
How about a globe, can you read that? Yup!
Like the pictures in that book that is WAY too hard for a 1st grader?
So what, check it out and look at all of the pictures.

Ms. Hale taught me not to be a reading snob. Anything in print was ripe for the reading, chapter books, picture books, cereal boxes, directions, maps, comic books, joke books, fiction, non-fiction, road signs...whatever floats your boat.Love it or need it, there were reasons for reading.

I was only 6 years old and I've never forgotten it. It guided me as an elementary teacher.

Reading is personal.

Similar to  Joe Bower's recent blog posts about reading, Daddy I Want a Book Buck, is story from my sister.

Her daughter who is in middle school has a book club with some other girls that their moms started years ago.  The girls had chosen to read a trilogy by Deborah Ellis, beginning with The Breadwinner and moving on to Parvana's Journey. Sarah LOVED the books, devoured them and in fact shared her copy with my mom (her grandma) because she thought Gma would love it, too.

THEN, as she celebrated this wonderful book to her teacher, she was told it wouldn't count for her "points" that month. The lexile score was too low.

(neither mother nor daughter knew what a lexile score was, why would they?)

This knowledge of the low lexile score  made the girls question whether they should even bother to read the 3rd book since it didn't "count".

It has a happy ending...the girls (and their mom's) decided book club was for fun and to heck with the points.

What would I be like as  reader if I had been bribed to read?
What great books would I have missed out on because they were too easy or too hard as defined by an incentive program?
Would it have killed my love of reading?

Are you killing the love of reading?

Great book to help you ponder that: Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading & What You Can Do About It. by Kelly Gallagher

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Surprise Upset? Indiana Teachers Weren't Surprised

As Tom Petty says " She grew up in an Indiana town..."

It has been such an interesting week reading so much about Indiana and "big upset" of the winner of  Education Reform Idol, Dr. Tony Bennett,  to teacher Glenda Ritz.  

No one I know who teaches in Indiana considered this an upset. They have been living for the day when they could vote Dr. Bennett out of office. Not because they disagree with EVERYTHING he has done, but mostly because they disagree with HOW the changes were done and that they felt that teacher's voices not only went unheard but were dis-regarded as irrelevant.

It has been like living with a foot in two different worlds for me, I talk often to educators outside of Indiana, but I talk daily to teachers and parents inside of Indiana. Outside of Indiana many say Bennett is progressive, a leader, ,a fearless change agent. Inside of Indiana he is a bully, an ego maniac, an arrogant fame hungry man willing to sacrifice public education for the brand of Tony Bennett. Of course, none of those descriptors are completely true.

Certainly some good things have happened during Dr. Bennett's tenure . When I worked as a Technology Director, the environment in the state technology department became one where innovation was embraced & encouraged, technology integration was in the forefront. The office in downtown Indy became a place to go for grants, answers, inspiration and support instead of one of mandates, hoops to jump through and forms to fill out. (Thank you Dr. John Keller & Office of eLearning team!)

As we embarked on changing the face of education in our community, Dr. Bennett (and Governor Daniels) were more than supportive. We were able to get waivers necessary to move forward with innovative schedules, class offerings and hard to find teachers, we  had opportunities for grants and were publicly lauded for being in the forefront of re-imagining our public schools.

But, at some point, as the national conversation turned to vilify teachers (and their unions) as the scapegoat for the poor economy, Indiana teachers felt thrown under the bus by their Superintendent of PUBLIC Instruction. The more they heard that for profit charter schools were the answer, the more de-valued they felt. The message heard wasn't one of support from their "leader" it was one of blame.
Still, it wasn't Bennett's embracing of charter schools, grading schools A-F, new teacher evaluations, or his for-profit, anti-union stance that I saw posted all over social media by the teachers who work every day in the classrooms of Indiana.

The messages I saw imploring friends and family to vote for Glenda Ritz were about standardized testing, specifically the all or nothing highstakes iRead test. In fact, it was this pass/fail testing of 3rd graders that spurred Ritz to throw her hat in the ring

Status posts like these were all over my FB news feed:

  • "Please support your teachers by voting for Glenda Ritz on Tuesday for State Superintendent of Schools. We need change. Tony Bennett has done nothing to benefit our kids' education. He has only made our jobs harder. I love love love my job and my students. I want each and everyone of my kids to succeed and Tony is just over testing them and making things harder for everyone."            
  • "... with the significant emphasis being placed on standardized testing he has assured the people of Indiana that their students will be prepared for exactly one thing. Those students will be able to take a test!"                                                                                                             
  • "If you believe children are more than their standardized test scores, please PLEASE vote Glenda Ritz for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Even if you usually vote a straight Republican ticket, please cross over for this race."

This post from @ScottElliott's column "Get on The Bus" in the Indianapolis Star explores many of the theories being floated for the upset, I agree with his conclusion that it really was a teacher-led movement. 

It will be interesting to see what happens going forward, Ritz, who garnered more votes than incoming Governor Mike Pence, is entering an environment that is already being portrayed in the media as hostile. We can only hope that what Pence says at the end of this article is true.

"We are going to focus on kids"